In this paper the example of cocoa production in Ghana is used to explore how the narratives portraying African farmers have changed over the last 70 years. These evolving narratives are explored through the notion of a ‘good farmer’. The argument is that over this period the image of African farmers has been progressively rehabilitated, from ignorant and tradition-bound to skilled and research-minded. Over the same time period the image of formal research and extension was undermined. With the recent renewed interest in agriculture, narratives around African farmers are again evolving: ‘good farmers’ are now increasingly being defined as those who approach their farming as a proper business.